Tourism courses not tailored to meet industry needs: report

The tourism industry in the region believes that courses offered by regional institutions are not tailored to meet the vast needs of the industry.

The finding is contained in a South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) report which analysed human resources development needs throughout the region.

The study also found that tourism SMEs generally lack support in capacity building.

Not only that, the report also highlighted the lack of knowledge by both tourism operators and employees in catering for the demand of Chinese tourists.

SPTO chief executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi said with tourism being ranked high amongst economic priorities of Pacific Islands Governments—studies like this help them identify areas they need to strengthen to improve the capabilities and skills of the tourism workforce.

“With funding from the European Union, SPTO has been able to identify and complete this analysis which will now tell us what we need to do to position our workers to perform better in the workplace.

“The findings show that our universities and high schools need to be geared up to take advantage of the boom in tourism and how to better capture the tourist dollar for the benefit of the nation, the industry and the well-being of workers who make the industry what it is.

“Our tourism operators know what they want—now it is a matter of communicating that to the educational institutions so we can churn out more highly trained and skilled waiters, chefs and front desk managers, to name a few.”

Vuidreketi said now it would be possible for them to realise their long-term objective in preparing a Regional Tourism and Hospitality HRD Plan.

Under the European Union funded Strengthening Capacity in the Pacific Tourism Industry Project, one of the three activities is the preparation of a regional tourism and hospitality human resources development plan. The New Zealand Tourism Research Institute of Auckland University of Technology led by Dr Simon Milne and Dr Semisi Taumoepeau conducted the research and analysis.

The study was conducted in 15 Pacific African Caribbean Pacific countries (Cook Is, FSM, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshalls, Nauru, Niue, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and  Vanuatu).

Some of the major findings include:

  • There is a broad array of training providers/educators operating in the sector—ranging from institutions with a regional reach and doctoral programmes, through to non-accredited locally focused training organisations. Industry and providers are looking for greater coordination of quality frameworks across the region.

  • The provider assessment reveals a considerable gap between industry demand for staff (and management) and what is able to be provided locally. Industry responses focused on the lack of tourism exposure students receive at school; difficulties in entering certificate level education after incomplete schooling; and challenges associated with up-skilling to diploma level qualifications and beyond. Industry is uncertain about some of the qualifications in place and look towards international qualifications as a benchmark.

  • Business owners and managers who completed the survey and participated in the interviews also felt that locally based educators had a relatively limited ability to provide the range of skills they require for their own personal/business development. (Once again a failure of the institutions to come up with courses that equip students with the skills to actually perform their functions.

  • In-house training (ranging from formal to informal) was adopted by a clear majority of survey respondents. Large firms are far more common to utilise formal in-house training techniques than their smaller counterparts.

  • In searching for knowledge for their own personal development, the survey respondents ranked the internet as the most important source of information, followed by local business and social networks.

The industry demand analysis highlighted the following key gaps between HRD demand and supply:

  • lack of resources to support SME capacity building;

  • lack of success stories to encourage youth.

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